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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/01/12 Permalink
    Tags: bag of bones, black house, blaze, , cell, christine, cujo, cycle of the werewolf, delores claiborne, desperation, dreamcatcher, duma key, end of watch, , , from a buick 8, gerald's game, , , joyride, lisey's story, mr. murder, needful things, rage, revival, roadwork, rose madder, , , stephen king books, stephen king books ranked, take a stand, the colorado kid, the dark half, , , , the regulators, the running man, , , , the tommyknockers, under the dome   

    A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Novel Ever 

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    Stephen King is a literary icon, a status he’s achieved by a) defining a genre; b) writing brilliantly; and c) being prolific. In other words, not only has Stephen King written some genius novels (and short stories, novellas, essays, and works of criticism), but he’s written a lot of them—49 novels to date, in fact, with number 50 coming up shortly.

    Note, however, the use of the word “some” up there. While we’d argue that King has never written a bad novel, there’s certainly a spread. We don’t just read the books so you don’t have to, we also rank them so you don’t have to. Without further ado, here’s how we see the novels of Stephen King—from absolute genius to, well, not so genius.

    To Be Determined: The Outsider

    King’s newest novel is due out in May, 2018. What do we know? We know it involves the brutal murder of a small boy, and that a mountain of physical evidence pointing to a beloved schoolteacher and family man as the killer. King loves stories about exploring the dark side of a person, but we’ll have to wait and see what he does with the plot this time around. After all, it’s never as simple as that.

    49. The Tommyknockers

    King has been open about his past drug abuse and other issues, and admits he wrote this book while high as a kite. It shows. Oh lord, does it show. Somewhere under the heart-pounding, jittery self-loathing, there’s a fascinating germ of an idea—alien artifacts (including an entire spaceship) are compulsively unearthed by folks in a small town, with disastrous results—but the only term that really fits the final product is “hot mess.” Though an immanently readable hot mess.

    48. Rage

    There’s a term for a writer’s early work: juvenilia. This novel was King’s first, and was later published under the Bachman pseudonym. The story of a teenager who murders two teachers and takes a classroom of students hostage, it’s quite simply not very good in comparison to what followed, filled with the sort of overheated writing that young authors often engage in while thinking they’re being provocative. After a rash of shootings at schools, King pulled this book from distribution, and it’s hard to find these days—and not worth chasing down, save out of curiosity or super-fandom.

    47. Rose Madder

    This messy novel reads like two separate stories merged together uncomfortably. In one, you have a realistic and brutal tale of an abused woman. In the other, there’s a magic painting that serves as a portal to another world. Even after the abused woman steps into said painting to flee her attacker, they never stop feeling like two separate stories.

    46. Cell

    We won’t say King phoned this one in (because that would be a bad pun), but it does almost read as a parody of his vintage work. From the flimsy premise—a mysterious pulse turns anyone caught speaking on a cell phone into a hungry, aggressive zombie—to the stiff dialogue, there’s not much to recommend here beyond some admittedly visceral thrills and the veiled references to The Dark Tower.

    45. The Regulators

    The mirror novel to Desperation is entertaining and has some moments of fantastic, chilling horror, but the premise (an autistic boy, assisted by the same evil entity that orchestrates the horrors of Desperation, gains the ability to alter reality in his neighborhood) wears thin by the end. What’s more, without the interesting parallels to its sister novel, The Regulators is much less interesting still.

    44. Dreamcatcher

    King wrote this alien invasion story shortly after he survived his famous accident, and it reads like a journal kept by a man in immense pain (and on a lot of painkillers). It’s the sort of body horror that can be—and frequently is— effectively creepy, but the verisimilitude actually goes too far, until you feel like you’re reading King’s private pain journal. On top of that, the self-consciously gross and hilariously-named monsters (literally called “sh*t-weasels”) come off as silly rather than scary. The less said about the ill-advised film adaptation, the better.

    43. Bag of Bones

    This isn’t a bad novel—in fact, it’s pretty darn good. If another writer had published it, we’d look on it more fondly. But since it was written by King, you can’t help but notice that it’s in just about every way a retread of themes, motifs, and tics he’s explored before—and usually better. A good novel? Yep. A mediocre Stephen King novel? Double yep.

    42. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

    This is the story of a girl who gets lost in the woods with nothing but her portable radio, tuned to the Red Sox game. That’s it. As exposure and dehydration worsen her physically, she hallucinates a pretty horrific scenario, leading to a battle with the God of the Lost in which the terrifying creatures and events mirror the reality of her struggle to survive. It’s a slight story that now also suffers from being a bit dated—after all, Tom Gordon isn’t exactly a household name any more.

    41. From A Buick 8

    Use a high concept (a 1953 Buick Roadmaster abandoned at a gas station is not, in fact, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster, but some kind of doorway to another dimension that occasionally disgorges bizarre alien items or creatures) to tell a series of stories about it in a campfire/ghost story structure, and the result should be something great. While the individual stories are interesting, and the overall concept creepy, the lack of a definitive ending to it all undercuts the success of the novel.

    40. Joyland

    Another story as flimsy as it is pleasant, Joyland is basically a toothless coming-of-age narrative with just a hint of a mystery. It’s an enjoyable read, but doesn’t really stick with you, good or bad. It just is.

    39. Cujo

    Cujo has some great ideas, but is among the weakest of King’s earlier novels. While it sports his usual skill at depicting characters and setting, ultimately it’s a story trying to wring horror and tension from a rabid dog; while it’s well worth reading, it never quite leaps off the page the way some of King’s more successful books have.

    38. Blaze

    Blaze is a tough one to rank. It’s well-written and often engaging, but ultimately, the story of a brain-damaged con artist who kidnaps a wealthy man’s baby for ransom then bonds with the child is kind of weightless. There’s nothing “wrong” with it, it’s just a story you forget almost immediately, which is something you can’t usually say about King’s work.

    37. Dolores Claiborne

    Your mileage will vary on this one. Some fans rank it much higher. Told as a long, rambling monologue by the title character, it’s impressive that King can maintain such a unique voice for so many pages, but rock-solid technique aside, the story—while not uninteresting—is slow as molasses. Some readers thrill to the immersive experience and the slow-burn mystery, but others find it hard rowing.

    36. Doctor Sleep

    To say there was some excitement among King fans when a sequel to The Shining was announced would be an understatement. The book is actually less a sequel and more an update on the character of Danny Torrance—which is fine. Danny is more interesting as a supernaturally gifted adult than he was as a kid, but the antagonists are, in a word, weak. You might read “spiritual vampires” and think otherwise. You would be wrong.

    35. Finders Keepers

    The middle novel of King’s Mr. Mercedes trilogy is a pretty good procedural yarn that ties into the first novel in interesting ways, but then sets up the third book in a clunky, heavy-handed fashion. Te reason it’s not a few ticks higher on this list is mostly because King engages in some rare lazy plot work, making a few things happen simply because he needs them to in order for the plot to hang together. King almost never cheats, so it really hurts this one.

    34. Duma Key

    The story of an artist who loses an arm and gains the ability to affect events through his paintings, there is much to love in this lush and often frightening novel. But it’s also rambling and a bit overlong. A tighter edit would push it up this ranking.

    33. The Colorado Kid

    When you’ve written as much as King, experiments are inevitable and laudable. This straightforward crime novel is an experiment that takes a decent if not particularly riveting story and ruins it, because it’s a mystery that is never resolved. According to King (and we believe him) that was the whole point, but while we give him credit for the artistic ambition, it renders the book frustrating.

    32. Cycle of the Werewolf

    Each chapter in this illustrated novel is a self-contained story that links with all the others to form the narrative. It’s a pretty straightforward werewolf story about a small town terrorized by one of the creatures, whose true identity is worked out by a wheelchair-bound boy—but it’s very well handled, and the unusual structure elevates it.

    31. Roadwork

    A truly underrated novel, and one of the few full-length novels King wrote that has absolutely zero supernatural or horror ingredients. It’s the story of a broken man served with an eminent domain buyout from the city, which intends to build a highway through his neighborhood, and his increasingly violent efforts to resist. It’s pretty intense novel, with a gut-punch of an epilogue, and has actually become more relevant as time has marched on.

    30. Lisey’s Story

    There is some great stuff in this novel, centered on the widow of a brilliant novelist as she reflects on their relationship and private and unique language while dealing with the emergence of repressed memories and the very real threat of a super-fan stalker who goes from threatening to violent. While King’s rumination on the inner workings of a relationship is interesting, there’s far too much of it in here, and the supernatural aspects feel tacked on. That said, at its core, this is a very good story, and certainly one of the most unusual in King’s oeuvre.

    29. The Running Man

    An early novel published under the Bachman pseudonym, The Running Man depicts a dystopia centered on an insane gameshow—this time having the contestant hunted by professional assassins on live television. It’s one of the most action-packed of all King’s novels, more of a thriller with a fantastic premise than anything else—but it’s a tightly written, gripping sci-fi story that has aged very well.

    28. Under the Dome

    King fans argue about this one a lot, but in many ways, it’s classic King. The premise is elevator pitch-ready (a town discovers that an impenetrable, invisible dome has suddenly appeared, cutting it off from the rest of the world), the characters are vividly imagined and (mostly) realistically drawn, and the payoff is one of the more clever and imaginative ones he’s ever engineered.

    27. Desperation

    Another of King’s ambitious experiments was the simultaneous publication of Desperation (under his own name) and The Regulators (under the Bachman pseudonym), with the books telling stories set in parallel universes that share characters and other elements. Of the two, we rank Desperation much higher: the tight, claustrophobic atmosphere of its premise—people traveling a lonely highway are pulled over and kidnapped by a possessed police officer and imprisoned—is a creepy and effective.

    26. End of Watch

    The final book in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy nudges the story into the supernatural, as the serial killer Mr. Mercedes has acquired some limited mental abilities that allow him to manipulate people and objects from his coma-like state. It’s a genius move, elevating the story beyond its need to wrap up the story and tie off the loose ends.

    25. Mr. Mercedes

    King’s efforts to evolve as a writer have produced some great work. While Mr. Mercedes, the first of a trilogy of crime novels, isn’t perfect (some of the characterizations are a bit thin and clichéd, as if King were aping other crime novels or TV shows) it’s tense, pivoting on a serial killer (who opens the story by running down innocent people in a Mercedes, hence his moniker) who taunts a retired police detective with his plans to kill again and again.

    24. The Dark Half

    Some of the best stories have very simple concepts. This one is razor-sharp: a writer finds that the pseudonym he’s been writing under has become much more real—and independent—than should be possible. And his dark half is doing terrible things. The psychological richness of this idea, especially considering King’s own history with pseudonyms, combined with the tightness of the writing put this one in the middle of the pack.

    23. Black House

    When King and Straub wrote The Talisman, King’s multiverse was still more of a notion than a firm concept. Its sequel, however, ties Jack’s story of parallel universes firmly to King’s Dark Tower saga, as an adult Jack whose memories of his earlier adventures have been repressed slowly realizes a serial killer plaguing a small town is actually an agent of the Crimson King. Jack retains his rare ability to flip between universes, and must reluctantly take on the task of saving not just his own, but all of them. It’s a rare example of a sequel that updates and matures its characters, themes, and universe in equal measure.

    22. Revival

    Revival is one of King’s best recent efforts—a chilling and unique work of horror that hits all the right buttons. A beloved minister loses his faith and pursues experiments in “secret electricity” that enable him to heal almost any affliction (with terrible side effects). He creates an experiment in order to communicate with the afterlife—and comes to the awful realization that the afterlife is a hell in which enormous, ancient monsters enslave and torture all humans, no matter what kind of lives they led. It’s bleak, depressing, and a fantastic read.

    21. Sleeping Beauties

    Co-written with his son Owen, this 2017 novel supports a high-concept premise (women begin falling into a supernatural-like sleep, becoming cocooned in a gauzy material, and react violently to attempts to wake them) with a rock-solidly realistic world to support it. The key to many of King’s best ideas is the futility of fighting against forces you have no control over; in this case, the women’s efforts to stay awake indefinitely has that rough-edge of pure terror that propels this novel into the top-half of King’s work.

    20. Christine

    If you stop to think about it, it’s remarkable King could take a hoary old premise like “haunted car goes on killing spree” and somehow generate a thoughtfully scary novel from it—but Christine is so much more than the sum of its parts. Tapping into the excruciating pain of being gross and unpopular in high school, King transforms adolescent rage into a universally horrifying experience.

    19. Needful Things

    The first part of this story is just King gleefully turning the crank, bringing the tension to an almost unbearable level before unleashing hell. A simple concept—a magical store where your darkest desires can be acquired, for a hidden and terrifying price—is elevated into a commentary on humanity, society, and the craven nature of people’s inner lives. When it’s casually parodied on Rick and Morty, you know you’ve written an all-time classic.

    18. Gerald’s Game

    Another choice that will likely spark some arguments, Gerald’s Game is one of King’s least supernatural horror stories, finding its terror in helplessness. The genius comes in the levels of helplessness King explores, ranging from the helpless sense of being trapped in a relationship, to the helplessness experienced by victims of child abuse, to the literal helplessness of being tied to a bed in a remote, deserted location. There’s a reason this book inspired one of the best King film adaptations of all time.

    17. Thinner

    Another Bachman Book, the premise for this thriller is so sharp and simple you can sum it up in one elevator pitch-ready sentence: a selfish, overweight man kills a gypsy woman and escapes justice, but is cursed by her father to grow ever thinner, no matter how much he eats. That’s it. It’s that simple. As the man steadily loses weight, his desperation grows to frightening levels. The richness of this plot, full of dark symbolism for modern-day America, remains powerful—and the blackly comic ending still packs a punch.

    16. Insomnia

    King himself regards the novel as something of a failure, but there are two reasons we rank this one, which is about a man who loses the ability to sleep and starts experiencing strange visions that might be more than simple hallucinations,  so highly. One, Insomnia is inextricably linked to The Dark Tower series, and could even be regarded as an essential part of it, in a sense—it features the first mention of the Crimson King, in fact. Two, it’s a daring and ambitious story, exploring some of King’s most stunning concepts with a real emotional punch, and a classic King premise involving a character who loses control of their own body.

    15. The Long Walk

    You know your writing career is going well when you’re forced to invent a secret identity in order to publish all the books you’re writing. The Long Walk, another one of the infamous Bachman Books, was The Hunger Games before The Hunger Games, except reduced to its most brutal basics—a group of young people are forced to walk until all but one of them is dead. It remains a surprisingly effective dystopian thriller.

    14. The Eyes of the Dragon

    While King is still often described as a “horror writer,” he’s been exploring other types of stories throughout his career. In this fantasy, King shows that he can craft a devious plot using any tropes at hand, and displays the same sort of worldbuilding prowess that has made The Dark Tower books so powerful.

    13. The Talisman

    Another transporting fantasy entry. Many of King’s stories involve children; the limited agency and mystification with adult concerns enhances the terror of his bogeymen and grants a level of verisimilitude to some of his more fanciful concepts. Co-written with Peter Straub, this story of parallel universes, which can be traversed if your twin in the other universe has died, centers on 12 year-old Jack. Jack seeks to cure his mother’s terminal cancer by locating a magical talisman, leading him through several dark and dangerous adventures that add up to one of King’s most satisfying stories, though the blatant homophobia throughout does dull its sheen, three decades on.

    12. Firestarter

    Ultimately, many of King’s best stories deal with primal forces, forces that are so terrifying in part because we can’t control them. Nothing is more primal than a child’s simple view of the world, when coupled with her immature impulse control—especially when that child has the power to set just about anything on fire with her mind. This one gets overlooked even by long-time fans, but a reread will remind you of its unadorned storytelling genius.

    11. Pet Sematary

    One of King’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to zero in on fundamental human experiences—like the loss of a beloved pet, the powerful yearning we all experience when we lose any creature that we care for, the state of fear parents live in for their children’s safety. What would you do to bring something—or someone—back? King asks that question and then offers a story that could have been kind of silly, but makes it absolutely terrifying when the magical titular spot does indeed bring the dead back to life—except different.

    10. The Green Mile

    One of the most successful of a string of King “publishing experiments,” The Green Mile was originally released as a “serial novel” in six installments. It’s the story of a mountainous, simple-minded black man named John Coffey, who in 1932 arrives on death row at a penitentiary nicknamed the Green Mile, having been convicted of murdering two white girls. King masterfully mixes issues of race, sadism, and mercy into the story as Coffey’s innocence becomes clear in parallel to the realization among some of the more compassionate guards that he has incredible empathetic and healing powers.

    9. ‘Salem’s Lot

    King is the consummate artist who respects what came before and builds on it. Raised on old-school vampire stories, his take on the story incorporates all the classic tropes, from the slightly insane vampire’s assistant to all the old rules involving sunlight, permission to enter, and seduction—and gives them all a modern twist that still feels fresh and frightening, even four decades after its publication.

    8. 11/22/63

    King’s career is so long, he’s been through several phases, like any artist. 11/22/63 is part of a late-career surge (still ongoing) of particularly strong, character-focused work. Time travel has been done so often in sci-fi it’s difficult to find a fresh angle, but King managed it using one of his trademark techniques: the inexplicable Mystery Spot located in a nondescript location. Tied to the Kennedy Assassination (still one of the most seismic events in U.S. history), the story morphs into a tragedy so subtly the reader barely understands why they find the ending so powerful.

    7. Carrie

    King’s first huge success is a relatively simple story that touches every reader in a universal sore spot: the hell of adolescence. King shows his talent for identifying pain points and exaggerating them just enough to make them terrifying, from Carrie’s humorlessly religious mother to her effortlessly cruel peers, building up to that classic moment when a suffering girl with strange powers makes everyone regret how they’ve treated her.

    6. The Stand

    The sheer scope of The Stand meant it was either going to be a tremendous success or a messy failure; not only does King offer up dozens of characters and settings, he tells an apocalyptic tale that starts off as a plague story and transforms into a biblical battle between good and evil. Even after he released the expanded version, replacing much of the material excised during the original editorial process, the story still hangs together perfectly, setting a multi-genre bar for success few writers could ever hope to clear.

    5. Misery

    If there’s a King novel that’s familiar to folks who don’t read King on the regular, it’s Misery, the story of a popular but conflicted writer who winds up in the clutches of his highly unstable biggest fan. Here, King perfected his technique of wringing true terror from scenarios that have nothing to do with vampires, ghosts, or ill-defined alien technologies—and everything to do with the fact that hell is other people. Crazed reader Annie Wilkes may be the most compelling villain he’s ever created, and that’s saying something.

    4. The Dead Zone

    King is at his strongest when his characters and story are rooted in a realistic world populated by regular folks—regular folks who just happen to be dealing with incredible circumstances. The Dead Zone, in which an unwilling psychic sees a terrifying vision involving an unstable politician, is the Platonic ideal of such books. As a bonus, it’s a surprisingly current book for the political present.

    3. The Dark Tower Series

    The eight novels that make up King’s multi-dimensional science fantasy epic vary a bit in quality, displaying a sag in the middle that’s surprisingly common for multi-book SFF series. But few would argue that the first three or four are mesmerizing, and the final book brings everything back to such a high level that the averaged score for the series, which tells the circular quest of the world’s last Gunslinger on a quest to reach the titular Dark Tower, the axis on which all worlds (including those depicted in many other Stephen King books) turn, puts it near the tippy-top of his massive oeuvre.

    2. It

    It can be surprisingly divisive, partially due to its epic length and partially due to a specific scene that was pointedly left out of the film and television adaptations (and thank goodness, because: gross). For our money, though, It is King tapping into the collective childhood terrors that we all share and generating a literary nightmare that finally made the world face it’s chief threat: clowns. That, and memorable characters and a palpable sense of place have made it a book that endures, and will continue to do so.

    1. The Shining

    The Stephen King Top Ten could be argued up and down, but there’s little doubt that The Shining—his most parodied, most famous, twice-adapted novel—is always going to be a contender for the top slot. We rank it number one because it’s in many ways the ideal King novel, the novel scientists would create if they sought to grow a King novel in the lab. Every theme, flat-out terrifying moment, and character is 100% Stephen King working at the height of his powers.

    What’s your number one King?

    The post A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Novel Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ella Cosmo 3:00 pm on 2015/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , revival, , , the friendly skies,   

    5 Great Books To Read When You Are Stuck At The Airport 

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    Summer is often a time for visiting faraway friends and family. If you are one of the brave souls embarking on the Kafkaesque waiting game that is modern air travel, add snagging a good book to your travel to-do list. Books are, in the words of Stephen King, a “uniquely portable magic,” offering a lovely mental escape from uncomfortable seats, bland airport food, that layover that never ends, and the relentless blaring of departure and arrival announcements. Oh, and a paperback book never needs to be recharged. So if you’re one of the fearless who will be traveling by air this summer, here are five great distractions to grab before you go:

    Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
    Poehler’s career has been on fire since her debut on Saturday Night Live in 2001, and she has enjoyed massive success on both the big and small screens. And with Yes Please, Poehler follows in the tradition of fellow funny women Tina Fey and Lena Dunham by givig us a touching and hilarious semi-memoir. Poehler is not the most deft of writers, something she freely admits in her preface, but she is a wildly entertaining one, and she makes the very smart choice of interspersing her own writings with that of her mother, father, and even former SNL castmate Seth Meyers. Ultimately it’s Poehler’s brutal honesty about many aspects of her life, from childbirth to that time she rubbed up on Justin Timberlake, that makes reading Yes Please a perfect distraction from your three-hour flight delay.

    Revival, by Stephen King
    After plunging into the world of crime thrillers with Mr. Mercedes, King made a triumphant return to the horror genre in Revival. His 55th (55th!) novel tells the story of two men whose lives are inextricably intertwined. Jamie Morton is only a child when he first meets the Reverend Charles Jacob. Charming and engaging, the Reverend quickly settles into Jamie’s small East Coast hometown, which welcomes him with open arms. But events take a dark turn, culminating with Charles turning his back on both the town and his faith. Years later the two men meet again. Jamie is now an adult with a bleak future, and the reverend is a bitter and broken man with a terrifying obsession. King draws strongly from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as Revival explores both the horrifying consequences of man’s attempt to play God and a dark, unbreakable connection between two people whose lives are destined to be intertwined.

    Gray Mountain, by John Grisham
    Samantha Kofer is young, smart, and ambitious. Armed with a law degree, a cushy job at New York’s largest law firm, and a shot at partner in her sights, Samantha practically has a sign over her head that flashes “Going Places.” Only she’s not; at least not in the way she expects. When the 2008 financial meltdown hits, Samantha’s job is one of the first casualties. Before long, a desperate Samantha finds herself in Brady, Virginia, home to the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic and a community ravaged by the greed of coal mining companies. And there are some evil doings going on, involving a coal company that will stop at nothing (and I mean nothing) to protect its own interests. Gray Mountain already stands on the strength of its storytelling as a really good legal thriller, but what makes it one of Grisham’s most impressive novels is the searing light it shines on some of the worst practices of corrupt coal mining operations.

    An Innocent Abroad: Life Changing Trips From 35 Great Writers, by Don George
    An Innocent Abroad: Life Changing Trips From 35 Great Writers is everything a travel anthology should be, ranging from funny to touching to heartbreaking while always remaining engrossing. The anthology features a diverse and wide ranging number of contributors, from writers Dave Eggers and Ann Patchett to seasoned travel chroniclers like Jan Morris. The collected vignettes offer readers the best of both worlds: a glimpse into all corners of the earth, and great stories. To achieve this balance, Lonely Planet asked contributors to write about a time they discovered or experienced something new while traveling—and the result is an amazing collection of nonfiction. While I enjoyed all of the personal narratives, my favorite was British writer Marina Lewycka’s Mauve. Let’s just say I never want to go to Russian summer camp.

    Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    I know, I know, Gabaldon’s Outlander series is already a worldwide bestseller and has been adapted into a wildly popular TV series, but don’t be wary of the hype: Outlander is popular because it’s really good…and weird. Weird in an interesting way, as it crosses both multiple time streams and genres. The series begins in 1945, with former combat nurse Claire Randall and her husband, Frank, taking a much deserved second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland. All is going swimmingly until Claire decides to collect plant specimens near the mythical stones of Craigh na Dun. In the midst of her gathering, Claire hears a buzzing sound and faints…then wakes up having time traveled to 1743. If that doesn’t trigger the “I may have to stay up for the next 24 hours and finish this book” part of your brain, I don’t know what will. It’s not just the unexpected plot twists that make Outlander’s historical romance/science-fiction/adventure premise so good; Gabaldon is also a terrific writer, and she gives readers a heady mix of time travel, battles, romance, heartbreak, intrigue, and drama.

  • Jon Gutierrez 4:30 pm on 2014/11/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , revival, ,   

    Stephen King’s Revival Reveals a Life in Supernatural Peril 

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    Stephen King's RevivalIn the dedication to Revival, Stephen King includes a long list of “the people who built my house”: horror writers like Mary Shelley, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert Bloch. But it’s really a love letter to two of those writers in particular: H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen. (If you haven’t read Machen, check out his novella The Great God Pan. Even 124 years later, it’s still disturbing, while delivering the valuable message that sleeping with an unknowable horror from beyond just might have a downside.)

    While Revival ticks off many of the boxes on your Stephen King checklist (small-town Maine, classic rock, deranged religious figure…), the tone of the book would fit right into a work by Lovecraft or Machen. It’s your classic “average man discovers a horrifying world beyond our own” story, but with King’s talent for fleshing out characters giving the terror even more punch. After all, wouldn’t Lovecraft’s Dagon be a little more emotionally gripping if we actually knew something about it’s protagonist? (For example, his name?)

    Revival follows guitarist Jamie Morton’s life through his increasingly disturbing encounters with the minister of his childhood, Reverend Charles Jacobs. The book opens with Jacobs befriending 6-year-old Jamie, a member of his new ministry, and the two forging a close bond. Jacobs has a growing obsession with electricity and electrical devices, which culminates in his healing Jamie’s mute brother with a device of his own creation. But when a horrific tragedy befalls Jacobs, he falls from grace and leaves town.

    Years later, Jamie runs into Jacobs at a county fair. While Jamie’s now a touring rhythm guitarist with a heroin addiction, Jacobs has become “Daniel Jacobs,” a sideshow pitchman who uses his electrical wizardry to create special photos of fairgoers, showing them not as they are, but how they picture themselves. Jacobs uses his knowledge of “special electricity” to cure Jamie of his drug habit, but leaves him with some unsettling side effects. He’s also left with a growing fear of what Jacob’s healing might be doing to his patients, and exactly how far he might go to get the knowledge he seeks.

    It’s hard to give a sense of Revival’s tone in a summary, because so much of the terror happens at the very end of the book. Here King is all about the slow buildup to horror, with large swathes of the book detailing Jamie’s life away from Jacobs: his first love, his music career, his reconnection with his family… And while these sections are never boring, the horror takes a backseat to a well-written coming-of-age novel, colored with dark foreshadowing. The narrative moves quickly and has no filler, and in the end, everything we learn about Jamie feeds into the horror of the climax, even if the reader doesn’t realize it on the way.

    So much of Lovecraft and Machen’s horror came from seeing how a man’s life can be destroyed by a brush with something unimaginable from beyond our world. Revival takes that idea further by lovingly fleshing out that life in painstaking detail. By the end of the book, we know Jamie Morton as well as any other character King has written, which only makes the possible destruction of everything he’s built all the more terrifying.

  • Melissa Albert 3:30 pm on 2014/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: , emily carroll, , , , , , , , revival, rooms, , , serial killers,   

    5 New Books That Will Make You Sleep with the Lights On 

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    Emily Carroll's Through the WoodsIn honor of the witchiest time of year, we present five books that will scare you worse than the ingredients list of a circus peanut. From an offbeat ghost story to fairy tales that bite, these reads will have you ignoring trick or treaters in your rush to get through just one more chapter before bedtime:

    Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll
    Even in their most bare-bones tellings, fairy tales are brutal, full of murder, dismemberment, parental abandonment, and familial betrayal. Their horror is often muted by their straightforward prose, which never dwells too long on the bloody chamber, the severed finger, or the slaughtered child. But in Carroll’s Grimm-inflected horror stories, which feel both canonical and new, spare prose winds around sharply rendered, eerie illustrations that intensify the terror and remind readers to stay far, far away from the dark, dark woods.

    Rooms, by Lauren Oliver
    In Oliver’s unusual haunted-house story, the ghosts aren’t specters in a hallway, or presences at the foot of the bed: they suffuse every inch of the house itself, unable to ignore the living people that come and go, or to avoid entering the dramas of their lives. Two bickering ghosts—and then a mysterious third—watch as an embittered patriarch sickens and dies, and his family descends on his house to plan the funeral, claim their inheritance, and square his earthly life away. Oliver’s book unfolds as not only a ghost story but a mystery (what are the ghosts’ origins?) and a dysfunctional-family drama, full of chills both paranormal and utterly ordinary.

    Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes
    Beukes reinvented the serial killer genre with 2013’s The Shining Girls, which added time travel and a creepy sense of predestination to the slaughter of a legion of “shining girls” marked somehow for greatness, ferreted out and destroyed by a vicious time-jumper named Harper. In Broken Monsters Beukes fuses five disparate storylines set in present-day Detroit into a sweeping and terrifying story centered on the hunt for the “Detroit Monster,” a killer who stages elaborate taxidermy tableaus with the bodies of his victims and of dead animals. It elides the boundaries between real and supernatural as effectively as The Shining Girls, and will be equally effective at keeping you up at night.

    Revival, by Stephen King
    A pastor broken down by personal tragedy seeks redemption in a very wrong place: the dark supernatural crackle of faith healing, but faith in what? Revival opens on the young pastor’s arrival, wife and child in tow, at a small east coast town, where he woos his congregants and wows young Jamie Morton before the accident and subsequent spurning of religion that drive him to abandon his flock. When a grownup Jamie reconnects with the Reverend Jacobs years later, he fears the man has gone too far into darkness and mad science to be retrieved.

    Monstrous Affections, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant
    Link knows from horror, having authored chilling tales including “Stone Animals” and the peerlessly creepy “The Specialist’s Hat.” In Monstrous Affections, she and coeditor Grant bring together stories by young adult authors exploring monstrousness ranging from the supernatural to the all-too-human kind. And how can you resist titles like Alice Sola Kim’s “Mothers Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying” and Holly Black’s “Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)”?

    What’s your favorite scary read?

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